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Author Topic: New Becta report on Handheld Learning  (Read 2178 times)
Topic: New Becta report on Handheld Learning  (Read 2178 times)
« August 13, 2007, 11:48:15 AM »

New research report on 1:1 access to mobile learning devices
The University of Bristol is conducting research into the impact of 1:1 access to mobile learning devices at KS2 and KS4.  Five schools, which are part of the Learning2Go or Hand-e-Learning projects, are being investigated.
This Development and Research project is using mixed methods to evaluate impact in terms of learners’ learning skills, attendance, behaviour and attainment.  It will also review the success of the implementation and sustainability of the schools’ PDA initiatives and provide examples of emerging good pedagogic practice.
The final reports from the project will be available in Winter 2008.
The Summer 2007 Interim Report is available here or attached to this post.

Emerging recommendations include:

Implementation – policy

  • The initial implementation of mobile projects is logistically challenging.
  • The open negotiation of contracts of acceptable and responsible use with learners and parents can be very useful in clarifying issues and building mutual trust.
  • When learners expect devices to be used, they are more likely to bring them to school every day and keep them charged. When all pupils in a class have their devices with them, the learning benefits are optimised.
  • Teachers need to play an integral role in choosing software and content to ensure that it is relevant to learners’ needs. They are then more likely use the devices.
  • Where possible, all relevant staff – especially teaching assistants, ICT co-ordinators and teachers – should be provided with mobile devices.

Implementation – technical

  • It is beneficial to ensure reliable wireless connectivity.
  • It is useful to consider systems for dealing with breakages and temporary loss of use of devices. This may involve planning for temporary loan stock.
  • Systems for storage of and access to work need to be developed. Teachers and learners need to access digital work to provide and receive feedback.
  • Consideration can usefully be given to possible software solutions to teachers’ issues around observing process, tracking progress and formative assessment.

Professional development of teachers

  • Teachers benefit from having time to explore what the devices can do before integrating their use into planned learning.
  • Using mobile devices is likely to increase learner autonomy. Teachers need to ensure that learners are able to evaluate resources, think critically and reflect.
  • It is important to consider the ways in which mobile devices are integrated with other (ICT and traditional) tools in learning at home and at school.

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« August 13, 2007, 05:34:21 PM »

Thanks for the summary Graham. I frequently refer to the issue that educators are not familiar with many of the tools employed by students and I think we should be seeing work to address that.
« August 14, 2007, 01:06:02 PM »

I agree with you Stuart, there is a huge need for training and professional development, not only about the tools themselves but how they are integrated within learning as well as accepted within teaching practice.

Another report that is well worth reading is David Perry's final report for the end of phase 2 for Wolverhamptons Learning2Go project. There are many points of interest and a recurring theme about storing, retrieving and managing student work. The Becta report states under technical implementation:

"Systems for storage of and access to work need to be developed. Teachers and learners need to access digital work to provide and receive feedback."

David's report expands and is more direct on this theme (download report, 2Mb here, see page 15):

"The necessity for this type of application cannot be over emphasised, particularly for secondary schools. Unless teachers are able to at least store and retrieve students’ work there is a constant risk of the loss of valuable evidence of attainment."

He continues:

"if pupils’ work on their handheld computers is to have credibility it must be treated as of equal value to work done in or on any other medium. This means that every element of the following common teaching and learning sequence must be supported:

• pupils creating work
• teachers distributing tasks
• pupils contributing their personal responses to tasks supplied, e.g. ‘learning applications’ or ‘worksheets’ (including digital ones)”
• pupils submitting drafts of work to their teacher
• teachers commenting on drafts
• pupils revising drafts
• potentially further rounds of revision up to final submission
• teachers marking final version
• marks being contributed to teachers and central records
• retrieval of earlier work to review progress etc – by teachers and/or pupils
• storage of final work teachers’ comments, marks, etc

Clearly, this will be very pointedly necessary when a pupil is following such as a GCSE course for external examination which includes coursework assessment, especially as external assessments start to accommodate digital submissions.

Thus far, pupils have generally been synchronising their handheld with their teacher’s laptop or the school network and many schools have been backing up to SD memory cards. It is a sign on the degree of embedding of the handhelds that those procedures were becoming inadequate for quantities of work over extended periods. "

If initiatives are genuinely adopting an anywhere, anytime approach to learning using mobile devices then such systems will require an online component rather than something that is classroom or school limited. The managed online storage world is evolving very quickly with even Google (story here) now entering the sector - although not yet with an education specific product.

« Last Edit: August 14, 2007, 01:09:55 PM by Graham »
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« August 14, 2007, 03:33:43 PM »

Its great to have so much work done on this area with detailed recommendations. I really hope that the powers holding the purse strings listen and start finding effective ways of funding this work to the point of large scale roll out. Recently I made the point to Higher Education that we need to be more far more aware of the impact of small devices in the lives of our students and staff! (Not all of us our Luddites Smiley. If our students have high expectations of flexibility in working (and this is to me the most important aspect of mobility) and we deny it to them then certainly in HE they will go to the places that don't.

We also need effective robust systems that allow staff to work with mobile devices effectively. For example most colleagues I know still do not get a mobile or PDA from work and until recently I was paying personally for all my own development and testing on mobile phones. We need the cultural shift to understand that these devices are 'everyday' and not just for special occasions. I find it amusingly ironic that most smartphone owners I meet are often the most distant from the students i.e. senior managers etc.. whereas those in the classroom, if they have  a device, are often struggle on something that would make a late 80's 'house brick' phone seem sophisticated.

But it is not all doom and gloom. I did some consultancy recently (and sadly NDA's limit how much I can say)  looking at integrating desktop and mobile web services, with clear feedback and moderation etc.. I think that and the growth of services such as mobile Filckr etc.. give some clear hope that things are getting better.
« August 14, 2007, 10:30:46 PM »

I found the Bristol Uni report bland at first but in fact, it's pithy and dense. No doubt when a full report is developed next year some of the huge issues buried under short one-liners at the moment will have been opened up. I've been working with the Bristol schools concurrently with the BU researchers and have topped-up my insights into a range of the handheld activities in Wolverhampton this summer with visits to a range of schools from nursery through infant and junior to secondary and special schools.

Many of the issues flagged up by Angela's report can be found already logged in my reports on Wolverhampton such as the one Graham quotes. However, in the Bristol secondaries, with older students, some wider cultural issues are emerging, sometimes buried under simpler ones on the surface.

For example:
"When all pupils in a class have their devices with them, the learning benefits are optimised."

So why don't the kids bring their handhelds to lessons? I'm currently really interested in the attitudes of 15-16 yr olds to this star-spangled gift they've been given that we thought would a) excite them and b) serve their needs so well. By contrast, I've been talking to kids who are totally casual towards technologies in a most negative way. Easy-come, easy-go is one manifested attitude. "My iPod's better for music." "We've got two laptops at home, one's mine and I've got a desktop so this PDA isn't much use." Some have got small techno devices coming out of their ears! However . . .

Don't your parents care about you not using your handheld when they're paying for it?

Mine broke and I ain't getting it mended.

Many of them have camera equipped phones but can't be bothered to keep the photos - they just show them to their friends, have a laugh and delete them if their memory gets full, or change their phone! They might download tunes onto their iPod but don't go any further with exploiting the devices potential. It's perhaps the preserve of a few nerds and the flash thirty-somethings to get their small devices interacting - playing their iPod through an FM transmitter on their car radio; uploading not just downloading on their smartphone etc etc. Or are these key technology skills that schools should be teaching?

Any sociologists out there interested in kids' changing attitudes to an over-abundance of technologies?!

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« August 15, 2007, 09:29:00 AM »

Hi Dave

Well with a first degree that involved Social Anthropology and Sociology and an MSc in Computing Science your post certainly raised some interesting questions. At many conferences and discussions I have raised the issue 'why give students another device?' - do they really want it? The answers I have had cross between cultural, financial and technical issues.

- Cultural (and this true for most innovations) small devices are still viewed with suspicion by many educators. Mobile phones for example are seen as disruptive. This view changes over time, its interesting to hear the attitudes towards computers in the classroom by teachers in the 1980s compared to now. So for various reasons, an important one being increased familiarity with the technology themselves we know that the cultural issue can be addressed. We also need to recognise that we don't approach our small computing devices in the same way as their larger desktop or laptop relations. Mobile's become personal very quickly and that needs to be considered when managing the devices, I would suggest (and research needs to back this up) that the sense of personal ownership is probably higher for say a mobile phone or Ipod than for a desktop PC, which may often be shared anyway.

- Financial, small devices are seen as relatively expensive. This is a bit of an urban legend. Its true for any new technology that the price bracket is very high to begin with and when I worked directly in the mobile phone industry back the late 90s (I hate to say last century Wink the cost of devices was still very high and significantly value added functionality and reliability very low. The same was true with PDAs but that has changed a powerful web enabled contract free phone can now be found for below £30 and that is a lot of power for little money.

- Technical, there is a strong desire by the 'pro mobile educators' (many on this forum) that I have spoken to to see the technology as part of the woodwork and as someone who is often involved in usability it is a desire I share. However, the reality is we are still a long way off of that. I have been researching a 'device agnostic' approach to mobile learning mainly from the technical view i.e. letting the user use their own device, it is probably a bit of a Holy Grail for me,  and there are lots of issues that need addressing, especially if you want to see interactive learning on these devices. However, unless we challenge those boundaries then we will change nothing.

I think this might contribute to an understanding of why we see the current approach to small device learning. Most projects centre around one device usually a PDA, which is brought by the institution with possible contributions from the user or parents. The PDA addresses the cultural issue because it is not a phone so not seen as much of a disruption by educators, it can also be controlled, it needs to connect to the institutions network to access materials not the mobile carrier. Also the financial issue is address because the PDAs can be brought en masse at a good price and again they do not carry the risk of mobile carrier charges. The technical issue is also addressed because you only need to be concerned about materials being available on one device. This makes development cheaper and testing much easier.

However, the use of PDAs in this way does not address an important cultural issue which you raise Dave - what does the learner want? They already have access to mobile phones, Ipods and playstatons portables but (at least in my observation) it is very rare to see a leaner elect to own a PDA, even smartphone ownership is rare. Some colleagues observe that perhaps this is because they are seen as business tools and still priced as such to the individual. Also, if we were to observe users we might find that each has a device of preference even if they own several different ones. That is another factor to take into account.

Some of the comments made in your observations about the disposability of devices may reflect an inverted snobbery e.g. 'It doesn't matter if I loose it, coz I got the cash to get another better one'. This attitude is actually encouraged by the mobile phone industry which relies on frequent upgrades to keep going. Although there are signs this model is changing.

So where does this leave us? The current device centric research and projects carried out by so many members of this forum is crucial. It provides important feedback about how to manage the devices and expectations of the learners in terms of using them. I also think (otherwise I would stop doing it) that my own and others considerations about device agnostic approaches are making useful contributions, especially in terms of pushing the limits of the technology. However for mobile learning to really be tested as a useful approach it needs to go mainstream, not just in schools but colleges, work based learning and universities as well. This will allow large scale, longitudinal  studies to be carried out that will provide the macro sociology needed for future decisions.

In closing (my what a long post!) I would say that I doubt that mobile learning will ever be for everyone, some learners just will not want it: they are too settled in their existing methods, their device is too personal, their physical abilities do not suit it there are lots of reasons. That is why mobile learning should not be isolated in the curriculum but be addition to the options available to educators and learners. Perhaps the really challenge is to provide mass education with individual flexibility in approaches to learning - now there is a Holy Grail!

« August 17, 2007, 01:17:09 PM »

Thanks David and Stuart, it's great when these debates kick off and there are some solid (as well as lengthy) responses making this forum a useful resource.

In a sense the mobile learning "movement" is working towards its obsolescence by which we would hope that rather than there be a category "mobile learning" it's just "learning" and the device is a tool that's an accepted part or enabler in the learning process. After all, learning while mobile was something we did originally until someone had the bright idea of locking kids in schools so their parents could go to work  Wink
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